Fire crews reached full containment late Saturday night, though Sierra National Forest officials said Sunday that smoke will linger and “continue to produce unhealthy conditions” in the area as interior parts of the forest continue to burn and smolder “for some time.” The fire’s cause remains under investigation.
The Ferguson Fire, which sparked July 13 in steep, rugged terrain and immediately gained strength while burning through beetle-killed trees, scorched nearly 97,000 acres and destroyed 10 structures. A pair of firefighters, Braden Varney, a heavy fire equipment operator, and Brian Hughes, a captain of an elite team called the Arrowhead Hotshots, were both killed during an intense fight against the flames that required some 3,000 firefighters from across the world. Nineteen injuries were also reported.
The nearby Yosemite Valley, a tourism mecca in the western Sierra Mountains, was closed to visitors from July 25-Aug. 14, a serious blow to local merchants in towns such as Mariposa, Wawona, El Portal, Groveland and Oakhurst who rely on seasonal revenues.
Two high-profile fires continue to burn in California, the Ranch Fire, and the Carr Fire. The key contributor to the Mendocino Complex Fire, the largest in state history, the Ranch Fire has charred 335,647 acres as of Sunday morning. It’s at 76 percent containment. The Carr Fire, which has killed six people and burned 227,098 acres in Shasta County and, at one point, threatened the city of Redding, was listed at 83 percent containment Sunday morning.
While there has been progress in battling blazes nationwide, officials worry that lightning strikes in states such as Washington, Oregon, and Idaho could spark more wildfires, according to Ashton Robinson Cook, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center:
“There are quite a few areas in the West where fuels are dry and susceptible to fire-starts and rapid fire-spread,” he said.
Wildfires have consumed nearly 5.9 million acres (2,387,650 hectares) of the United States so far this year, well above the national average for the same period over the past 10 years of 4.8 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, a monitoring agency.